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'Their Brains Learn Differently': Kids With Autism Learn To Ride Bikes

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4) - Learning to ride a bike is a rite of childhood, but it can be tough for kids with autism and other developmental disabilities.

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"Their brains learn differently. Maybe they just need a little bit of extra help in breaking down the steps of riding a bike," said Vincentia Ferrari of the STAR Institute. She's an occupational therapist there.

The organization, which is located in Greenwood Village, helps kids overcome sensory processing disorders. And riding a bike is one of the hardest and most daunting tasks.

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"I've had 13-year-old kids in tears saying I'm never going to be able to do this," she said.

In their "bike camp," STAR Institute therapists take kids through the basics -- learning how to steer and stop, navigate pathways and find their balance. They also distract kids from their fears by making the process fun.

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The program takes kids of all abilities, whether they've never tried riding a bike or if they're living with severe autism. Participants gain confidence and learn how to have fun, and within five days almost every kid can ride a bike on their own.

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"You could see the light in their eyes when they master it, it's just like, like 'Wow, I can do it,'" Ferrari said.

Therapists say the lessons the participants learn when they are young can set them up for future success. If they can gain confidence in their youth, the next challenges they face may not seem so great and they'll remember what it felt like to conquer adversity. It's rewarding for the kids and the teachers who showed them the way.

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"Just seeing them and that sense of like 'I can do it,' and then seeing that through their parents eyes as well. You can't even put words to it -- it's so rewarding," Ferrari said.

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